Antony and Cleopatra Act IV, Scenes 10, 11, and 12: Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scenes 10, 11, and 12: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. The later fighting in Act IV was disastrous to Antony for two highly important reasons. What were they?

2. In Scene 10, what does Antony mean when he says, “I would they’d fight i’th’fire or i’th’air”?

3. At the beginning of Scene 12, Scarrus says, “Swallows have built/In Cleopatra’s sails their nests.” What does he mean?

4. What is the meaning of Scarrus’ comment about the “augurers”?

5. Antony, seeing Cleopatra’s ships once again give up the fight, but this time defect to Octavius (Caesar), calls Cleopatra a “Triple-turned whore.” To what is he referring?

6. Antony tells Scarrus to “Bid them all fly.” What is Scarrus being instructed to do?

7. What does Antony threaten to do to Cleopatra?

8. Antony’s reference to his wife Octavia in line 38 of Scene 12 implies a comparison between Octavia and Cleopatra. How does Antony compare the two women?

9. Who is the “young Roman boy” Antony mentions in his soliloquy at the end of Scene 12?

10. What is Antony’s general attitude during Scene 12?

Answers
1. Antony knew little about sea battles, and Cleopatra’s fleet, on which he had counted heavily, defected to Octavius’ side.

2. In ancient Rome, educated people believed that everything was composed of some mixture of only four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Antony had fought and defeated Octavius (Caesar) on the earth and was about to fight him on the sea; exulting in the previous day’s victory, Antony says that, having fought Octavius on the earth and on the sea, he’d like to fight him also in the fire and in the air.

3. Scarrus is speaking symbolically; it is hardly likely that swallows would build nests in sails. “Sails” here is used as a synecdoche, as it is elsewhere in this and other plays. Scarrus says that the swallows have built nests in Cleopatra’s ships; that is an evil omen in the minds of ancient Romans and probably Egyptians, too. Furthermore, if her ships are sufficiently idle to allow birds to build nests in them, one might conclude that her sailors are not properly trained and ready to do battle.

4. In essence, Scarrus...

(The entire section is 539 words.)